Model: S-Bound 98 Crown
If you toe the line between cross-country skiing and alpine touring, these backcountry boards are for you. Fischer’s waxless bases have solid grip on gentle-to-moderate uphills in all conditions but spring slush. Add the nylon-mohair Easy Skin ($75; sold separately)—which clips into the bindings, and covers just the kick zone—and the skis transform into climbing machines for steeper slopes. We slapped the Easy Skin on for an ascent of Montana’s Trapper Peak and found the S-Bounds almost as sticky as a full alpine touring setup. On descents, a wide sidecut and tips that rise when you weight the ski permit more control than a typical cross-country ski, even letting us carve turns on slopes equivalent to resort green runs.
The heaviest skis in the test, the S-Bounds broke trail like champs, aided by steel edges and tips that never bogged down in powder. Tradeoff: These skis take more energy to push across the flats, and they’re too wide for groomed tracks, which are 70 millimeters wide at most.
“The S-Bounds’ shape made them nimble enough to handle dense trees when spring melt forced me off-trail,” says a Montana tester.